Sean McMahon reporting from the Aviva Stadium
The manner in which Ireland were defeated by England at the Aviva Stadium today will hurt the Irish players and coaches alike.
To lose out in the physicality stakes, something which this team prides itself on, will come as a cruel blow.
This was just one of the many areas of the game where Ireland were second best.
Ireland lost the kicking game, they came off worse in the collisions and they found it difficult to slow England ball down at ruck time. They can be happy with their set-piece and their discipline but that will matter little as the players like their wounds after handing England the full five points.
With all the talk about Ireland being the best side in the world, the performance and the result has the sense of something of a reality check being handed down to the Irish players and this was something which head coach Joe Schmidt agreed with.
“Yeah, that [loss] is a reality check, that’s how it’s going to be,” Schmidt admitted post-match. “That’s why England are such a, literally, a big team.
“They did really well tonight. it’s hard to take anything away from England. The intensity they brought to the game, it was more a simmering physical intensity that they collectively delivered that made it a suffocating place to be out on the pitch.”
Ultimately, Ireland were bullied by their English opponents tonight in a similar fashion to when New Zealand recorded a victory at the Aviva Stadium in November 2016.
Although it wasn’t to the same extent with regards to illegal hits, it still provides a lesson to this Ireland team as Schmidt explains.
“It’s something that happened two years ago against the All Blacks, we got bullied here.
“You’ve got to be prepared to give as good as you get. I don’t think we did tonight. I know the players are disappointed that we probably didn’t have the same physical edge as they did.
“We don’t have the same personalities. I don’t think we got a turnover on the ground, tonight – there was very little that was allowed to happen on the ground, a lot of people off their feet.
“It turned into a muddy battle that’s very difficult to contest in. If that’s slow, it allows them to get on the front foot, get off the line. They got excited about it. There was quite a lot of volume with them stirring each other up and getting each other off the line and they backed it up with a real physical intent.”
The loss proves that by no means are Ireland the finished article but in a year where there is so much at stake, this is perhaps the best time to learn these harsh lessons rather than in Japan in October.